The last truly exciting graphics technology unveiling was nearly six months ago, in December of 2004, when ATI took the wraps off of its RADEON X850 XT PE graphics card. Even then, the product was little more than a juiced-up X800 with an extravagant, dual-slot cooler and an all-time higher price tag. Was it faster? Without question. Did it represent any noticeable advance? Not particularly.
More recently, we saw the first 512MB graphics cards in ATIís PCI Express RADEON X800 XL. Itís an impressive piece of work by most accounts; however, the extra performance afforded by additional memory is offset by that productís lower operating frequency compared to the X850 XT Platinum Edition. Half-Life 2 demonstrates the cardís alacrity to some degree, but I think itís fair to say your money is better spent on a faster card instead of one with more memory.
What happens, though, when you combine a super-fast graphics processor and
an extra-large frame buffer? After all, both ATIís X800-class and NVIDIAís GeForce 6-series architectures support 512MB memory capacities. ATI first demonstrated 512MB on a RADEON X850 XT board, suggesting itíd pursue the high-end with great memory capacity. ATI later revealed itíd instead arm its X800 XL with 512MB and shoot for a lower price point. In response, NVIDIA announced plans to introduce a 512MB GeForce 6800 Ultra, heralding a new flagship theoretically capable of besting every other card on the market. It employs the same 130nm manufacturing process and even runs at the same frequency. The real issue here is memory capacity.
BFGís GeForce 6800 Ultra OC 512MB
Even if the 512MB GeForce 6800 Ultra is an over-the-bow response to ATIís own 512MB salvo, thereís no denying the cardís supremacy from a specification sheet point of view. BFG wasted no time in packaging and marketing the board, adding its own touches to what is otherwise an NVIDIA reference design.
BFG GeForce 6800 Ultra 512MB
Back of the card
Dual DVIs on the backplate
Physically, the 512MB model differs from 256MB 6800 Ultra boards in that it is longer and includes some extra power circuitry, much of which is covered by a secondary passive heatsink. It employs the same six-pin power input youíd expect on any other high-end PCI Express graphics card, and the board sports a very similar active cooler for its graphics processor. Interestingly, only half of the onboard memory modules are blanketed with aluminum RAM-sinks. The other eight 1.6ns modules run bare.